Waiting to be explored
(The Buddhist relics in different parts of Tripura point at the prevalence of Buddhism in the State )
The Manikya dynasty has ruled the longest in Tripura. Various kings of the Hindu dynasty ruled, for 500 years,what is now the present Indian State along with the plains of Chakla-Rosanabad, presently in Bangladesh. However, many antiquities, like stone and metal structures, terracotta plaques, seals and coins, which have come to lightover the years in the Chakla-Rosanabad area along with places in present-day Tripura point towards the prevalence of Buddhism in the region.
These antiquities may be ascribed to the 7th-12th centuries of the Christian era. These findings hint that there was a prevalence of both Brahmanical and Buddhist faiths in the region. Traces of Buddhism have anyway been strong in Pilak in southern Tripura which is contiguous to the southern part of Chakla-Rosanabad. The Pilak-Jolaibari region and the surrounding areas can be included in the same cultural zone of the remaining part of Tripura. Belonia, Santir Bazar and Sabroom sub-divisions are regarded as placeswhere there was a concentration of the Magh tribes who were Buddhist in religion.
In fact, both Pilak and Boxanagar in western Tripura, near the Comilla division of eastern Bangladesh, are the two internationally well-known Buddhist dominated areas. Foreign tourists, specially from Japan, regularly visit the temples and other Buddhist monuments in these places, thus pushing the State Government to construct tourist lodges there.
Some two decades ago, archaeological excavations at Boxanagar bordering Sonamura subdivision of Western Tripura’s Sepahaijala district unearthed a large Buddhist complex, including relics of stupas, a teaching centre, a bronze image of Buddha and seals in Brahmi script, triggering a controversy over the history of the State.
The excavations, conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Boxanagar in 1997, has unfortunately remained incomplete.
Add to this the contention of many historians who are of the view that Tripura’s history commenced with the arrival of Tibeto-Burman groups from the Bodoland areas of Assam, leading to the rule of the Manikya dynasty which ruled the State until October 15, 1949, when the princely state joined the Indian union.
However, another group of historians and researchers interpret the excavations at Boxanagar in western Tripura and Pilak in southern Tripura as an example of co-existence of Hindu-Buddhist culture. They attribute the derivation of the name Tripura to a Kokborok (indigenous tribal language) compound of ‘twi’ (water) and ‘pra’ (near), justifying the name with reference to Tripura’s proximity to the vast water resources of Bangladesh.
Anyway, both Pilak and Boxanagar which lie very close to the border with Bangladesh bear a close resemblance to the Buddhist culture that flourished in Maynamati and Paharpur areas ofthat country. Some years ago, Jitendra Das, an ASI superintendent, discovered an idol of Lord Buddha in Boxanagar and stated that it was part of a Buddha temple.
However, historian Sukhendu Debbarma, associated with the Tripura University, is of the opinion, “Archaeological findings unsupported by literary, numismatic and other evidences should not lead to any conclusion. Moreover, the findings at Pilak and Boxanagar do not necessarily mean that the Manikya dynasty rulers did not have any control in the area. Maybe, the Buddhist culture there had flourished under the patronage of the Tripura kings.”
Where: Boxanagar is 35 kmsfrom State Capital Agartala and 8 Km from the Sonamura sub-divisional town.
Accommodation: Sagarmahal Tourist Lodge, Melaghar andSonamura dak-bungalow.
Contact: Tripura Tourism Development Corporation( 0381-2325930/2317878) and Sagarmahal Tourist Lodge(0381-2524418).
( The writer is a senior journalist based in Agartala. He has been awarded the Press Council of India's National Award for Excellence in Journalism in the category of Rural Journalism and Developmental Reporting, 2015. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )